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The all-female Kessel Racing crew, which is supported by the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission (WIMC), has secured one of the 60 coveted places on the 2019 entry list for the most famous endurance race in the world, the 24 Heures du Mans (15/16 June). Manuela Gostner, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting will line-up on the starting grid in their Ferrari 488 GTE, the first time in 10 years that an all-female crew has competed in the event on the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe.

“This is a dream come true for the mission and objectives of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission,” commented Michèle Mouton, its President and winner of the Prototype 2L category at the 1975 Le Mans. “For nearly 10 years we have been working to promote the place of women in our sport and to try and open doors that will give female racers equal opportunities to demonstrate they have the talent to compete at the highest level. Kessel Racing has really embraced our philosophy and it is a real pleasure to be associated with such a professional team.

“To have secured this entry to Le Mans is absolutely fantastic, and not easy, and a real step towards our goal of getting women on the podium at the most iconic event in endurance racing. I have to say a big thank you to the ACO for their support, and of course Kessel Racing for their faith in Manuela, Rahel and Michelle. The hard work really starts now, but with the official ELMS test and two race meetings before Le Mans, I am convinced the girls will use this preparation time wisely and be more than ready for one of the most significant races in their careers.

“It is good we can see ever-increasing interest from female racers and teams alike, but being accepted to Le Mans is difficult. A second all-female entry from Meyer Shank Racing for Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen and Bia Figueiredo is on the reserve list and I really hope we can see them in action soon too.”

Deborah Mayer, who is instrumental in making the Kessel Racing project possible, and who will be the Team Manager, added: “I am very honoured and proud that both the FIA WIMC and ACO have supported our project to realise this dream.”

Since it was founded in 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has always welcomed women racers and on Saturday 22 June 1930, Marguerite Mareuse and Odette Siko became the first females to participate and the pair finished a fine seventh in their Bugatti Type 40. The era marked the beginning of increased momentum and Odette Siko’s fourth place in 1932 remains the best racing result achieved by a woman at Le Mans. In 1935, there were 10 women drivers at the start, including three all-female line-ups. Yvette Fontaine became the first to win in her class (2-litre Prototypes) in 1974, followed by Michèle Mouton in 1975. Other female racers, to name but a few, include Christine Beckers, Lella Lombardi, Anny-Charlotte Verney, who raced a record 10 times, Marie-Claude Beaumont, Desiré Wilson, Lyn St. James and Cathy Muller. More recently, the last time an all-women crew participated was in 2010, when the Swiss line-up of Natacha Gachnang, Rahel Frey and Cyndie Allemann competed in a Ford GT. Vanina Ickx came seventh in 2011 and Christina Nielsen was the first Danish woman to ever participate in 2016; the former IMSA GTD-class champion also claiming sixth in the GTE Am class in last year’s Le Mans.

Leena Gade, however, became the first woman to win Le Mans three times, the FIA Women in Motorsport Ambassador engineering the winning car three times during Audi’s LMP1 programme.

The 87th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours is the finale of the 2018-2019 Super Season of the FIA World Endurance Championship and the Kessel Racing crew will be competing in the hotly-contested LMGTE Am category which has 18 secured entries.